In the midst of our racing around the exhibitor floor at McCormick Place in Chicago, Frank Oorreel stopped us the moment he saw our camera. The more we talked, the more we learned. Frank and his company, Boplan, are actually Georgia-based neighbors of ours in Suwanee! It’s a small world after all.
Along with Mike Radgowski, their Southeast Regional Sales Manager, Frank met us later at the booth for Boplan at Promat 2019. It was their first interview with IndustrialSage– but not the last, we hope!
Founded in 1998 in Europe, Boplan entered the market in America back in 2014. They’re one of the leading manufacturers of polymer guardrails. These rails product not just people, but also infrastructure and machinery in large industrial facilities.
Typical guardrails are actually made of steel. However, that means they’re hard and rigid. When struck, they vibrate. If a forklift were to ram into a steel guardrail, it would have no give and its frame be damaged. The floor to which it’s bolted and the runaway vehicle would also suffer as a result. Even if not replaced, the rail would have to be repainted (at minimum) to maintain its bright warning color for future workers. Over time, those constant repairs and replacements can cost a lot.
Boplan’s polymer, on the other hand, has a particular amount of flexibility.
“I think the biggest success story is when I started with a customer…and I started with a small section. A ten-foot section. A test section. And from there, it kind of grew. I knew how the product was going to perform, but they didn’t…and long story short, out of ten feet, it grew to the existing building. Now every inch of guardrail in [their] new facility is our guardrail. And that’s mainly because it works.”
The proprietary formula for the polymer is owned by Boplan. It’s still extremely rigid to the touch, but it can actually bend from the impact of a runaway vehicle and therefore soften the blow to the driver.
The polymer barriers may cost slightly more up front, but over time they quickly pay for themselves. Unlike steel, a guardrail which can snap back into its original shape won’t have to be replaced after a major accident. It doesn’t have to be repainted. The concrete around it won’t need repair, either. That can lead to incredibly significant savings.
A professional football player actually joined Boplan at Promat for part of the show. They were using the motif of a football player, “ready for impact,” to spark conversations with passersby. The guardrails looked like plastic, which sparked the same question over and over. “Do they actually work?” Fortunately, it seems Boplan anticipated that question.
In addition to videos showing multiple vehicle impacts with their barriers, the Boplan booth allowed visitors to get up close and personal with numerous polymer products. Show attendees could push and shove the barriers with all their might…but it was nearly impossible to produce even a temporary bend in many of them by human strength alone.
In short, the exhibit at Promat was a chance for Boplan to “show, not tell.” And they absolutely delivered.
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